Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz was a visionary feminist mind, born centuries before her time and largely ignored by the Eurocentricized annals of history. She wrote about intersectionality, serviceability and preached radical ecofeminism before any of those were even named concepts. And yet because Sister Juana suffered the same fate as many early feminists, namely having her ideas and writings suppressed by the male-dominated power structures of the times, she was never given credit she deserved for the revolutionary thinker she was. Here on Earth-XY it’s a shame we don’t teach her writings in class, but to the people in the alternate reality of Earth-XXY, it’s simply baffling that we would ignore the invaluable contributions, of Pope Juana Maria, the woman who brought the Catholic church to its knees.
Their Juana’s story begins fairly similar the Juana Ines of our world, self-educating herself from a young age and serving as an assistant to the local Viceroy’s wife before semi-consensually joining a convent at age 19. This however, was were their paths begin to bridge. Similar to in our world, Juana Ines XXY would exchange letters with the noble women of New Spain, wives and daughters of captains and counts, writing of their virtue and giving them advice. Eventually the word spread of this overseas, into Spain, Portugal and even Italy. Women spoke in whispers of the brilliant nun in New Spain, the daughter of an Indigenous woman who wrote with greater wisdom than any man. They sent letters to her asking how to handle their husbands drinking and infidelity, how to raise their children in service to God, and what to do with their yearning for more in a system built to hold them back. Sor Juana wrote them all, feeling it was her duty to teach these women their value in a male-identified society that told them their place was in subservance. But as she wrote she realized the problem could never be solved if she were to tackle it one woman at a time; for her to succeed she needed the women she taught to become evangelists of her new message themselves. And so she began her work, informing her most loyal and dedicated followers of what she needed from them before plotting out her revolution.
Utilizing the natural social networks of Europe’s royal families, Juana XXY began to write regular opinion pieces that would be spread around between women all across the Mediterranean. Her first piece of real significance was on the value of speaking out against male-dominated systems. She told women that they represented at least half of the population, and that without their acceptance of the role they’d been bestowed, the men would never be able to control them all. She advocated that women speak truth to the power they were denied at every turn, challenging their unvirtuous husbands on the very merits they used to control women’s actions, roles and bodies. She based her theory in the teachings of the Catholic church, so as to not upset the presumed natural order of things too much, but quickly created a climate where the men across Europe found their authority questioned at every turn. By presenting the criticisms of patriarchy as failures in the service of God almighty, she had given women carte blanche to question why it was that men, who so often fell to temptations of sin and avarice, were in charge of not only the Crown, but unchallenged in the Church itself. Soon though, word spread among the men now threatened by this surge of female empowerment, that it was letters corrupting their dear wives fragile minds, and countless noble women lost access to letters from the outside world. Thankfully, Sor Juana anticipated that this might happen, and had already instructed the women under her tutelage of just what to do in such a scenario.
A paper on serviceability acted as the catalyst for the rest of her plan, highlighting exactly how and why women’s work and roles in society led to their own persecution. She informed the nobles of the things they did on a daily basis to serve the interests of men, against the will of God, and suggested that should their access to her teachings be suspended, they should halt these practices, thus claiming what little power they had in each and every household. In a matter of days there was chaos in the dining halls of Lords and Ladies from Madrid to Roma, with wives refusing to so much as sit with their husbands at royal engagements so dearly valuable to their image and reputation. Some women were punished for their deemed insolence, but the unity that crossed borders and languages was near unstoppable. Beloved queens began to speak of the shortcomings in their spouses and Sisters in covenants everywhere ceased to welcome priests into their midst. The revolution had begun, but as with any revolution, it all hinged on whether their demands could be expressed in a clear, consistent and concise manner. Their demands, as laid out by Sor Juana, were simple but clear; first, noble women wanted equal claim to the lands of their husbands and fathers, and roles within the family unit that held actual power. Second, they wanted the right to mary and divorce as they chose, based of course on the unvirtuous nature of their husbands. And finally, they made a request Sor Juana was not aware of, one her followers thought of all on their own. The strikes would only cease when they finally allowed women real representation, with Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz as the supreme holy authority in the land. Imagine her surprise when she was informed the Vatican would bend to their requests.
Changing her name, as is customary for Popes to do, to Juana Maria, she quickly set out to radically alter the course of the church and kick off women’s suffrage almost two hundred years early. As you would expect, her first change was to allow women to serve as fully fledged priests, fundamentally altering the message of the church going forward. Many saw this as a complete victory for Pope Juana’s movement, but some still saw the work that needed to be done, and none were more aware of that work than the Holy Mother herself. As a mestizo woman, Juana knew that the advances for women in the noble houses would not necessarily translate to the lower classes and indigenous women of the New World. She determined that an incomplete justice is an insufficient justice, and began work on a new set of teachings, ones on the concept of intersectionality. She wrote how the intersections of class, race and gender all overlap on individuals lives, but that to truly eliminate discrimination it needed to be wiped out in all forms at once. She began to sit with people labeled deviant by the church, men who laid with other men and women trapped in bodies they knew were not their own. She realized over time that these were not people suffering the corrupting hand of Satan’s influence, but rather that God had made them the way they were, and that only by understanding and integrating the views of these most demonized by the church could they see the full scope of God’s vision and love. Her papers were met with some resistance, but there was little any could do to stop her. Her congregation was loyal to a fault and the guards that protected her day and night would gladly fight to the last before any could lay a hand on her. Soon her message of intersectionality traveled back to her home of New Spain, sparking fierce debate on the nature of colonization in the New World. The Spaniards clearly had no right to the lands they conquered, but the people had laid roots, their bloodlines irreversibly mixed to become the Cosmic race we now call Mexican. Pope Juana saw a greater problem however; as no matter who received the land, what they did with it would forever alter the natural beauty of the place she once called home. And so, once again, Juana retreated to her chambers to ponder and write.
Pope Juana had accomplished much in her reign, but alas was only human, and as the cough she’d been suffering got worse, something became increasingly clear; this would be her final lesson. This knowledge wasn’t a source of great concern for the Holy Mother however, as hers had been a life dedicated to the humble service of God and she knew in her heart that paradise awaited her in the afterlife. She was however, more motivated than ever before to send one final and clear message to cement her legacy in the chronicles of history. And so she wrote, for days on end, while the Sisters of the Vatican performed her regular duties. Draft after draft was tossed into the fire before she finally came up with it, the piece that would change everything. She called it “La Declaración de los Derechos y la Armonía”, a modern day Magna Carta; a set of rules and laws with a strict focus on ecological rights, determining that humanity would always return as much as they took from the Earth. The declaration laid out how Aboriginal land claims would be recognized and what the process of expansion in the New World would look like. No longer would rampant colonialism rape and pillage at will, creating the teetering Jenga tower of socio-economic problems we face today. Capitalism would not be curtailed entirely, but the worst excesses of greed and industry would be seen as affronts to God and punished accordingly. She had changed the world forever, and now it was time to rest. Feeling her duty now done, Mother Juana retreated to her bedchambers, where her dearest friends kept her company to the final breath.
In this world America would not become the nations it is in our world, but over time it become a melting pot of not only different cultures, but entirely different ways of living. The hegemony of the cityscape was challenged by those who chose to live off the land. It was respected and understood that certain areas would remain undeveloped and over time, created a harmonious land without borders or discrimination. Mother Juana would never get to see her legacy sadly, but her teachings created a climate that improved the world in ways she could never even imagine. Europe became less warlike and more compassionate, as an intersectional union was more beneficial to them than fighting ever was. The increased representation of women and lgbtq+ folk created a more fair and just world that’s also significantly more efficient. With most nations on Earth working together from the 18th century on, humanity already has 3 colonies on Mars in 2018 and the first interdimensional travel is scheduled for 2020. Hopefully they come to our world and teach us some things.
In closing, I feel Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz’s life and lessons should be taught in classrooms because had she been heard and not suppressed, she could have changed the course of human history. On Earth XXY there are several holidays dedicated to her and entire courses taught on her final lesson alone! The least we can do is include a couple of her poems in next years curriculum!